Nearly six years after Frozen opened in theatres, going on to be one of the highest-grossing animated films of all time, today a sequel arrives in theatres. While that success might make the prospect of a second a foregone conclusion for some, Walt Disney Animation Studios chief creative officer Jennifer Lee — who directed Frozen 2 with Chris Buck — reminded the audience at a recent press conference that, “There’s never been a second musical to a feature film,” adding, “So we were going into the unknown completely. We just knew that we loved [the characters] and we wanted to be with them again and we couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen to them.” And thus began one of the more lively and wide-ranging press junket panels I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending.
One thing that was clear over the course of the press conference was how much the cast has bonded over the past few years. Often times, because of how animated movies are created, the actors might not ever meet until it’s time to promote the film. Yet, with the “core four” not only appearing together on several talk shows and events since the first movie but now also regrouping for the sequel, there was something special between them that could be felt throughout the room. On top of that, each clearly played their own role in the clique that often mirrored their character, such as Gad proving to be quite the jokester (when asked to describe what the film meant to them in one word, his response was “residuals”).
Another theme of the event was the reverence the cast and crew have for Ms. Menzel. Although they’re all “roughly the same age,” as Bell put it, several of the actors shared their memories of seeing Menzel perform on Broadway in shows like Rent and Wicked. Meanwhile, Evan Rachel Wood (voice of Queen Induna) and songwriter Kristen Anderson-Lopez revealed they’ve each previously auditioned for the role of Maureen in Rent — the part that Menzel originated. Speaking of Lopez, she also credits Menzel’s vocal abilities as part of the inspiration for her and her husband to pen “Into the Unknown.” She explained, “She has this warmth and this vulnerability down low. And then as you bring her higher and higher, she gets stronger and stronger and more powerful. So she just reaches into your soul when she’s singing these big giant songs. And I really truly think that we are the lucky ones to get to write for her.” This led Anderzon-Lop to add, “I don’t know that ‘Let It Go’ or ‘Into The Unknown’ would be a hit without Idina honestly.”
Of course, while Menzel was certainly given the chance to let her voice shine in the first film, one of the actors wasn’t quite as lucky: Jonathan Groff. A Broadway star in his own right, Groff did sing in Frozen, although the short and fun “Reindeers are Better than People” might not have truly showcased his abilities. As Bell put it, “[T]hat was my one criticism of the first one. I was like, look, it’s an excellent film, but Jonathan Groff doesn’t sing, so that’s how it fails.” Thankfully, that is rectified in the sequel, as Kristoff is given a power ballad that stands out as one of the most memorable scenes in the movie and is, according to Gad, “the funniest song in Disney animation history. Period.” In response, a tongue-in-cheek Groff said, “We were completely genuine when we were making that song. There was nothing funny about it at all. And then the animators, they did some crazy take.”
But that wasn’t the only praise the cast had for Kristoff. During the discussion, Bell said of the character, “We talk about female empowerment and it’s led by two women, but I personally think that the representation that Jonathan gives for the guys is out of this world and it’s so subliminal, I don’t even know if people will pick up on it.” As for what lines in particular Bell was referring to, she explained, “There’s one moment where Anna is in distress and he swoops in and picks her up. And it’s in the midst of battle, right? And he doesn’t say ‘I’ve got you’ and start taking over. He swoops her up and very quickly looks at her and he says ‘I’m here. What do you need?’” This lead Wood to note, “He’s Prince Sincere, not Prince Charming. That’s how I describe him.”
Finally, without mentioning the spoiler in question, one of the best moments of the panel came when a question was asked about a particular aspect of the film’s plot. If it weren’t already clear from many past Marvel and Star Wars projects, Disney takes secrecy very seriously — so much so that Bell was scared to say the spoiler out loud. Instead, she turned to Chris Buck to say it for her, then declaring, “If that gets out, it was him, not me.” In any case, she stated of the events in question, “I remember the moment that I found out that that scene was written. And I couldn’t believe it, and yet it felt exactly right.”
To find out for what exactly Bell is talking about, hear Kristoff’s “totally sincere” power ballad, and of course experience all of the gorgeous animation Disney has to offer for yourself, be sure to catch Frozen 2 in theatres now.
Kyle is a writer living in Springfield, MO. His deep love of Disney and other pop culture finds its way into his stories, scripts, and tweets. His first book “The E-Ticket Life: Stories, Essays, and Lessons Learned from My Decidedly Disney Travels” is available in paperback and for Kindle. http://amzn.to/1CStAhV